ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As the defense first style of game moved along, it became more and more evident that a single goal was going to decide it. Neither Clarkson nor Massachusetts could find a way to crack the goaltenders. When the game went into overtime with nothing but goose eggs up on the scoreboard, eventually someone had to score to make it a 1-0 final.
That someone was Kevin Jarman for UMass who flipped a loose puck over the sprawled David Leggio who thought he had it underneath him.
“I made the initial save,” Leggio said. “I thought is was underneath me. The guy who scored the goal did a great job putting it in the top shelf.”
The play started with Will Ortiz skating around the back of the net with the puck. His failed wraparound attempt turned out to be a centering pass. Jordan Virtue was the first to get the puck, taking a backhanded shot. After Leggio made the save, Jarman took the next shot.
“It all started with Ortiz,” Jarman said. “I was fortunate to pick up the garbage and put it over the goalie.”
The first period was dominated by the UMass defense collapsing in front of its goal, preventing any dangerous opportunities by Clarkson. The Knights did not get their first shot of the period till nearly halfway through.
Meanwhile, Clarkson relied on Leggio to bail them out when UMass went on the attack. The biggest scoring opportunity for UMass came on a late two-on-one. Leggio was forced to make the tough initial save and then a tougher one on the rebound shot.
Each team had one power-play opportunity in the first, but the penalty-killing units kept the puck in their opponent’s zone as it was in their own zone. The keep it close to the vest style of play in the first period resulted in the red light staying off.
“They are a good defensive team,” Clarkson’s captain Nick Dodge said. “They put guys down low making it difficult to get shots.”
“I think the end of the first period, we had the better of it,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “But all it means is now it’s a 40-minute game.”
The second period saw Clarkson come out and initially dominate. After UMass outshot Clarkson in the first, 13-4, the Knights reversed the tables in the second, 18-7. However, the end result on the scoreboard was the same — a scoreless tie.
“The second period was all Clarkson,” Cahoon said. “But in reality, it was then a 20-minute game.”
There were more and better chances than the first period, however. The best opportunity of the game came about twelve minutes in when Clarkson’s Max Kolu fanned on an open net opportunity. Had he gotten the shot off, Jon Quick would not possibly have been quick enough to get it.
Each team had two power-play chances in the middle stanza also with better opportunities than the first. Clarkson did an excellent job on the first powerplay controlling the zone and moving the puck, but did not get many shots off.
Clarkson took two penalties in close proximity giving UMass a brief two-man advantage. The Minutemen’s best opportunity came on a scramble in the crease, but Leggio finally found the puck and covered it.
The Knights again missed getting a shot off when they had Quick out of position seconds after their second powerplay of the period. Shortly afterwards, Leggio was called upon to make a save sliding across the crease, but had the shot been harder, it most likely would have gone in.
“Obviously, I thought they came out in the first period and played real well,” Clarkson coach George Roll said. “I thought we came out in the second period and got a lot of good chances.”
P.J. Fenton had two beautiful plays that could have resulted in the game’s first goal. But alas, he, too, was stymied. The first resulted from him blocking a shot up high, allowing Fenton to go the length of the ice on a breakaway. At the last minute, he was hounded from behind, forcing Fenton to get off a weak backhander that Leggio stopped with an outstretched leg.
Moments later while killing off the first powerplay of the third, Fenton danced around a Clarkson defender leaving him alone in front of the Knights’ net. However, Fenton did not get the shot off he wanted.
With about six minutes left, Quick robbed Tim Marks with a great glove save, as Clarkson applied constant heavy pressure. Right after this, Leggio had to make a difficult save on a long shot that drastically changed direction on the way in.
In the last minute of regulation, UMass had two excellent chances thanks to bounces off the backboard that Leggio had trouble reading. However, Leggio was able to recover each time and get a piece of the follow up shot. The shots went back the other way in the third with UMass having a 16-10 advantage.
“As a coach, you always feel you are going to be on top,” Roll said. “I’m awfully proud of this team and where they came from.”
The Knights finish the season at 25-9-5 after playing in their first NCAA playoff game since 1999.
“We’re grateful to live another day,” Cahoon said. “Obviously, we got the break at the end of the game.”
UMass (21-12-5) will play Saturday evening against the winner of the Maine-St. Cloud game for a trip to the Frozen Four.